Blog

Events, Writing

Four Years of Writing

The Well of Tears Banner

4 years. 3 books. 250,000 words. That’s a quarter of a million words! Actually, it’s more than that, but a quarter of a million sounds like a nice healthy number. Do you remember how, as an 11-year-old, you used to groan when the teacher asked for a 200-word essay? 200-words? Pah! I spit in the face of 200 words now!

Those are the numbers behind my Wardens of the Black Heart trilogy. I couldn’t tell you how many hours of my life that represents, but if I had to give a rough estimate, I’d say somewhere between 200 and 250 hours per book. And that’s just the writing, editing and proofreading. There’s plenty more time been spent on social media trying to spread the word and pinging off e-mails requesting – OK begging – bloggers to review my books. Then there’s the formatting, re-formatting, wrestling with Microsoft Word and uploading to the Amazon KDP platform. When all this is factored in, along with the time spent dreaming up the plot and jotting it down in electronic notes at random points, I think I can safely assume that this has been a 1000 hour+ project.

Tomorrow sees the publication of the third and final part of the trilogy: The Well of Tears. Readers (honestly, there are a few) will finally get to see how Lorna and Monkey’s story arc plays out and whether they can hold off the threat of those dastardly wardens.

My story has come a long way from the spark of inspiration that led me to create the character of Monkey, the boy who loves to climb. At that point, I didn’t have much more than his love of climbing to fuel the story, but once I added in Lorna and Charles Gooch and a bunch of mysterious objects, the creative juices began to flow.

Now, like a nervous football manager who, having selected his players and drilled them on his tactics before watching them step out onto the pitch to meet their destiny, I have done just about all I can to make my stories the best they can be. Whilst I will take all the plaudits for the good bits and, just as importantly, shoulder the responsibility of any faults in my work, it would be unfair for me not the share some of the blame, err I mean the credit, with others who have played their part. Yes, it’s time once again for the hundred heroes column.

Naturally, I want to thank everybody who has shown an interest in reading my books and especially those who have bought and read one of them, but there are a few people, or groups of people, who deserve a special mention.

First and foremost of these is my youngest daughter, Rachel. From a young age, we’ve known that she is a mathematical genius, but it would appear that the cogs in her brain are particularly well-suited to editing her Dad’s book. Rachel has spent many hours wading through my first and second drafts, and it is to her enormous credit that my final manuscripts are as error-free as they are.

In addition to reading and giving her opinion on the (almost) final draft, my eldest daughter Lauren has used her artistic talents to help turn my eBook covers (created by OliviaProdesign) into paperback versions (more on that in a later post). I’m also grateful for Lauren’s advice on social media.

My friend Darrin has read all three of my books before publication and provided useful feedback on each occasion. More than anybody, Darrin is a useful barometer of whether the ending of a book is good enough!

I’d like to think various online friends from message boards for their kind comments and encouragement: Craig from AmazonExiles on Goodreads and a whole host of people on The Digital Fix Forums.

Chelle on the Curled up with a good book blog was the first blogger to review my books, and I’ll always be grateful for that. She has since reviewed Black Hearts Rising, and was good enough to host the cover reveal for The Well of Tears. As an indie author, it is hard work getting any publicity for your book, and so we all owe Chelle, and other bloggers like her, a debt of gratitude for giving our books a little foothold in the literary world. Thanks also to the bloggers who recently reviewed Monkey Arkwright – you can see their reviews here.

Now, with the convivial backslapping out of the way, all that’s left for me to say is: go and buy my books. Preferably all of them!

Reviews, Writing

Blog Tour Report – Part 2 – Reviewing the Reviews

Blog Tour Part 2

This is the second part of my Monkey Arkwright blog tour report. In part 1, I analysed the reasons for taking part in a blog tour, how I selected a tour host and what happened before and during the tour. You can read part 1 of my report here.

In this part, I will be taking a look at what the reviewers said about Monkey Arkwright; reviewing the reviews, so to speak.

It may seem an obvious goal, but the two areas where I want my writing to shine is in the execution of the plot and bringing the characters to life. So, it was immensely satisfying for me to see that these two themes cropped up constantly across the reviews. Let’s start the review of reviews by seeing what Jasmine, from Jazzy Book Reviews, said:-

Monkey Arkwright is one of those books where you’re not sure what to expect, but once you start, you find yourself falling down a rabbit hole filled with mystery, intrigue, and some strangely fascinating supernatural elements. I rather enjoyed this book, and I now can’t wait to get my hands on the second book in the series.

That’s a great start. Funnily enough, the analogy of a rabbit hole also cropped up in the review on Trails of Tales:-

The action-adventure in this book has been shaped with the essence of a treasure hunt which makes it more exciting to follow Monkey and Lorna down their rabbit hole.

It seems that Jessica Belmont was equally gripped:-

The mystery is well-developed. I fell right into the story and didn’t want to leave. Rob Campbell is a fantastic writer who is able to suck his readers in and keep them in.

 

It seemed that the plot was good enough to drag the readers in. But so much for the plot, what about the characters? It doesn’t matter how well a story is plotted, if the landscape is populated with two-dimensional cardboard cut-outs, the book is going to fall flat. But it seemed that my characters were doing well in the reviews too. Writing on Jazzy Book Reviews, Jasmine said:-

I also really liked Frank. Even with his past, he was a great guy, and he seemed like he genuinely cared for both Lorna and Monkey. George (aka Goofy) and his gang were just plain awful. I disliked all of them very much.

If I’ve got readers liking the good guys and disliking the bad guys then I must be doing something right as a writer. Meanwhile, when analysing the environment in which Lorna and Monkey find themselves, ReasReads made an interesting observation:-

I say again, I do not trust these adults and it meant that I was doubting everything they told Lorna and Monkey about Gooch (the ‘bad’ guy).

I also enjoyed the fact that Jane Hunt Writer had this to say about my cast:-

The characters in this book are complex and quirky, adding to their appeal.

The work that I put into the emotional side of Lorna’s journey isn’t lost on readers either. Leelynn (SometimesLeelynnReads) said:-

This book was interesting for a YA mystery novel. Nothing to take lightly, since one of the book’s main characters has to learn how to deal with the grief that comes with a parent of dying of cancer .…. But yeah, that part broke my heart from the beginning I will have to say, and stuck with me while I was reading this novel.

 

Reading through the reviews, I also enjoyed seeing some of the reviewers explain why it was that they think that my story worked. ReasReads stated that:-

The reason this story works is because the whole way through the book I was second guessing what was going on and what side were the good/bad guys.

Writing on Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog, Cheryl noted that:-

It’s interesting how Campbell lets the reader wonder and debate the validity of the premise along with the characters. Is it luck or bad luck?

An element that isn’t specifically about the plot or the characters is atmosphere. Whether it’s spooky, creeping with dread, nostalgic or displaying the hallmarks of some specific genre, it’s nice to find that you are conjuring some imagery in the mind of the reader. In this respect, it was pleasing to read the following from Mai on Mai’s Musings:-

There was something about the writing style of this book, and the story itself, that put me in mind of the old black and white film noir genre.

Whilst Cheryl on Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog wrote that:-

It has the strange appealing kind of charm associated with stories of such ilk as Stand by Me, perhaps because it has an aura of nostalgia, especially at the beginning of the book.

 

Returning to the plot, how did the reviewers feel about the way the various plot strands were resolved? Fellow writer Jane Hunt felt that:-

The plot is detailed and fits together nicely, it is layered without appearing convoluted and is resolved well.

Writing on Radzy Writes and Reviews, Radzy said:-

I was gripped, and remained on the edge of my seat until things began wrapping up into a satisfying, well executed ending.

But I didn’t write this as a standalone book, it’s part of a trilogy, so I was pleased to see some comments like the following from Cheryl on Cheryl M-M’s Book Blog:-

I think this has the potential to be a really good series, especially the combination of Monkey and Lorna, their friendship, the secret societies battling against each other to acquire the strange powerful objects.

Jane Hunt seems of a similar mind, describing Monkey Arkwright as:-

An engaging, original mystery with wonderfully individual characters and interesting potential for further stories.

 

Now a short section that is basically an excuse to list some enormously pleasing comments from the various reviewers:-

For a first-person novel, this is effortless, and gives a wonderful sense of realism. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. Campbell knows what he’s doing, and has presented us with a story that will be loved by readers of all ages.

Radzy Writes and Reviews

The plot is nicely paced, and there’s enough mystery to keep even the savviest readers guessing as they flip through the pages.

Jazzy Book Reviews

Monkey Arkwright is a fun mystery featuring two quirky characters that had me entertained from beginning to end. I absolutely loved the characters.

Jessica Belmont

 

I’m going to finish off with a comment from Mai on Mai’s Musings:-

Although the book does take a slightly darker turn from around the halfway point ….. it somehow retains a feel of innocence and the old school adventure stories I grew up with. I think as the series progresses it has the potential to develop into something more sinister.

Well, hold that thought Mai, because things do get decidedly darker and more sinister in the second book, Black Hearts Rising.

Thanks once again to all the bloggers who were kind enough to review Monkey Arkwright. There are links to the full reviews on my Reviews tab.

Writing

Blog Tour Report – Part 1

Blog Tour Part 1

The blog tour for the first book in my YA mystery series, Monkey Arkwright, has just ended. The tour was brilliantly organised by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, and as a lot of indie authors are in a similar position to me – i.e. seeking ways to give their hard work a bit of publicity – I thought that I’d share my thoughts on the experience.

This is part 1 of a two-part report, where I go through the nuts and bolts of what went on before and during the tour. In part 2 of the report, I’ll be analysing what the bloggers said in their reviews.

 

Why I chose to do a blog tour

Like many indie authors, after moderate success with sales of my first book, I’d hit an impasse in terms of reviews and sales. Analysing my sales graph on Amazon is like mapping the topography of the Netherlands. Or in other words – flat as a pancake.

Monkey Arkwright was published in November 2017, and I published the follow-up, Black Hearts Rising, in February 2019. As I’m signed up to Amazon’s KDP programme, I thought that the trick of giving the first book away for free would be a great way of selling the second book. So I paid various sites to promote my giveaway periods, the largest amount being $40 to E-Reader News Today (ENT), and I did indeed manage to shift over 700 units. However, I saw no noticeable uptick in sales of either book after this experiment and decided that whilst free giveaways may work for some, they didn’t for me.

As I approached the release of the final book in the series, it seemed that engaging the services of a blog tour organiser would be the best way to generate some publicity for my book series.

 

Selecting the tour host

I am a member of the Book Connectors Facebook group. If you are an indie author and you are not already a member of this wonderful group, then I suggest you join. There are a lot of supportive authors and bloggers on there, and you get plenty of good tips and opportunities to engage and promote your work.

Reading the daily posts on the Book Connectors group, I noticed that there were a few blog tour sites that regularly cropped up as being recommended by my fellow authors. Rachel’s Random Resources was one of these sites, so that’s who I picked as my host.

 

Selecting my tour

There’s a dazzling array of products on offer, but reading the various descriptions on the site, they generally follow the same pattern. I decided to go for the 7-Day Review Only Tour, which cost me £55.

I sent an e-mail to Rachel and waited for the response.

 

Dealing with Rachel

Whatever else happened on my blog tour, I can honestly say that dealing with Rachel was a breeze. She was always responsive to my e-mails and it didn’t take long to set up the tour.

I was required to send copies of my book (I sent mobi and pdf versions), plus cover art, author photo and various other bits of information that are pretty standard for any publicity exercise.

 

What the tour offered

Once I’d submitted my information, Rachel took over. She created a tour banner and added a dedicated page on her website before inviting potential bloggers to sign up for the tour. You can see my tour page here.

Now came the most nervous part of the experience – the blog tour offered a minimum of 5 bloggers and a maximum of 21 bloggers, but if the minimum quota is not met within 5 days of Rachel’s first e-mail to bloggers, the tour is cancelled and you get a 90% refund.

It’s not that I was bothered about losing £5.50 (the 10%), it was just that if there weren’t 5 bloggers interested in my work when a professional tour organiser offers them a copy for free, what hope is there for selling my book?

The waiting (as Tom Petty once sang) is the hardest part….

 

Before the tour

It turned out that I need not have worried. In fact, the period before the tour was quite exciting. I checked the tour page after a few days and was relieved to see that seven places were already filled. After this point, I began to check the page daily, and it was great to see new additions here and there. It didn’t take long for the tour to fill, at which point Rachel sent an e-mail telling me what would happen next.

At this point, I must confess to my first minor disappointment. The tour that I’d paid for was a “review only” tour, but the e-mail said that out of the 21 bloggers, 12 would be reviewing and 9 would be providing promo spots. It would have been nice if all 21 bloggers were to provide a review, but being philosophical about things, I probably should look at the 9 promo posts as a bonus. After all, the tour could have gone ahead with just 5 reviewers and I’d have still paid the same money.

All things considered, I remained excited for what was to come – the tour was on!

 

During the tour

Promo posts and blogger reviews appeared throughout my 7-day tour. Rachel did her bit by retweeting links to the posts at regular intervals, and it was good to see some of the other members of Book Connectors retweeting and liking the various posts. As previous noted, I’ll cover what the reviewers said in a separate report.

There was a slight lull in the middle of the tour caused by some no-shows. Between days 3 and 5, 4 out of the 9 bloggers did not post. Maybe this is an acceptable loss for tours of this type, but a strong finish with 5 superb reviews over the last 3 days left me feeling pretty good about the whole experience.

 

Conclusion

I was very happy with how the blog tour for Monkey Arkwright turned out. Rachel was an efficient and effective tour host, I got some fantastic reviews and made contact with a few bloggers that may be mutually beneficial in the future. Whilst there was no obvious impact on sales, I do feel like I’ve gained a little of that hard-to-get publicity in what is a very crowded space. If you are an indie author in a similar position to me, I’d recommend giving a blog tour a shot.


Rob Campbell is the author of the Wardens of the Black Heart trilogy (“Monkey Arkwright”, “Black Hearts Rising” and “The Well of Tears”) — a mystery series that will appeal to fans of 80s films such as “Stand By Me” and “The Goonies”, where people stumble across strange things in the woods or uncover dark secrets hidden in the abandoned places around a small town.

Events

The Well of Tears – Announcement

Hello readers! I’m am pleased to announce the release of the final book in my Wardens of the Black Heart trilogy, The Well of Tears, which will be available on 29th January 2020, exclusively on Amazon.

If you missed the cover reveal on Curled up with a good book, you can see what Chelle had to say about it here. Many thanks to Chelle for allowing me to share the cover on her blog.

In the meantime, you can feast your eyes on the cover and read the blurb below.

The Well of Tears - Cover

A tale of cryptic messages, treacherous betrayal and a long-hidden family secret brings a thrilling trilogy to its spellbinding conclusion.

The three talismanic masterpieces created over a century ago by the artist, Abernathy, have caused Lorna and Monkey plenty of problems. But things are looking up for the brave and resourceful teenagers. Having tracked down the painting known as The Truth, they now get to discover what Dylan Fogg is hiding in his cellar. But when Lorna is attacked by an unknown assailant desperate to get his hands on the painting, and with Victoria Halfpenny’s betrayal still fresh in her mind, it becomes clear that simply hanging on to the works of art may be a battle in itself.

Meanwhile, Monkey is battling his own demons. Still in denial over the claims of his estranged uncle, Monkey is about to learn the shocking truth concerning his father – and it may be darker than he feared.

With Charles Gooch out of the picture, the Wardens squabble over their next move. Leader Daniel Turnbull is intent on channelling the power of Abernathy’s masterpieces to plunge the world into a dark and uncertain future. But hidden in the shadows, at least one member of the Wardens’ council doesn’t share his leader’s views and plans a bold move of his own – a move that could jeopardise everything Lorna and Monkey have achieved.

Note that you can click here to pre-order the Kindle version now, but if you are old school and would like a hard copy, just hang fire as there will be a paperback version along before the release date.

The reason for the short delay is that I’m just completing a few minor edits pre-release and naturally, I can’t format the paperback until the final version is locked in.

 

 

 

Uncategorized

January Update

Monkey Arkwright Full Tour Banner

A couple of quick updates to kick off the new year.

Editing on the final part of my YA mystery trilogy, The Well of Tears, is almost complete. After plenty of read-throughs and going through the text with a fine-tooth comb, I’m ecstatic with the way that it’s turned out. Soon, you’ll be able to find out what happens to Monkey and Lorna and discover whether they can get the better of the dastardly Wardens of the Black Heart. I’ll be sending it out to my trusted reviewers soon, and the book will be available for pre-order on Amazon before the end of next week.

In my last post, I promised a cover reveal. That hasn’t happened yet, and I apologise for the delay, but it will be available soon, closely followed by the upload to Amazon where you will be able to see the cover anyway.

The second bit of news is the upcoming blog tour for Monkey Arkwright. The tour has been organised by Rachel’s Random Resources, comprises a combination of features and reviews, and runs from 10th to the 16th January. You can see the list of sites that are participating on the tour in the image above. I’m excited to see what the bloggers make of my debut novel, and I’ll be posting a round-up when the tour wraps up.

Events, Writing

Book #3 Progress Report – December 2019

writing

Work continues on the editing phase of The Well of Tears, the final part of my Wardens of the Black Heart trilogy. It’s taken me five weeks to get through the first edit, and I have to say that I’m really pleased with how the book is shaping up. I found editing my second book a long and exhausting process – nothing to do with the story or characters, more the number of stupid grammatical mistakes that I made in the first, and second, and even third drafts. I remember reading Black Hearts Rising seven times on my Kindle before release, which was far too much. The biggest change for the upcoming book was using Microsoft Word’s “Read Aloud” feature earlier in the process. Although listening to your words read back by a machine (not quite robotic, but hardly Stephen Fry) is tiresome in its own way, it’s amazing how many dumb mistakes you spot. I’ve found that the human brain is a fantastic editor for readers – replacing “or” for “of”, inserting a missing connective or article and even editing out the double “the” – but can sometimes be the enemy of the author. Read your own work and those little errors that will jump out at the reader are sneakily masked by your own meddlesome brain. Getting your computer to read your work aloud is a Godsend, and I now use it at three different points in the editing process: once when I finish writing each chapter; again when I’m reading through the whole manuscript for the first time, and finally during the first edit. Taking this into account, here’s a summary of my writing and editing process, as used on The Well of Tears:-

  1. Plan novel (months of jotting ideas down in an electronic notepad).
  2. Write each chapter.
  3. Run each chapter through Grammarly.
  4. Use Word’s “Read Aloud” feature on each chapter, correcting mistakes.
  5. Pass batches of chapters to my editor (youngest daughter, Rachel) for comments.
  6. Make any necessary changes to chapters, run through Grammarly again.
  7. Combine all chapters into a single document. First draft complete.
  8. Read each chapter on the computer, using Word’s “Read Aloud” feature to read the whole document, correcting mistakes (yes, there were fewer on the second read!). At the same time, make a note of the areas that need attention in terms of plot, character and general descriptions.
  9. Edit the chapters that need attention. Use Word’s “Read Aloud” on updated passages or chapters as required.
  10. Pass completed second draft to Rachel for full read-through.
  11. Edit entire book, correcting mistakes and considering any suggested improvements.
  12. Put on Kindle and read through.
  13. Correct any mistakes (hopefully few and far between at this stage).
  14. Repeat steps 12 and 13 until I don’t spot any mistakes.

I’ve certainly learned a lot about the craft of writing in putting together my trilogy. It’s an enjoyable and rewarding process, but can be tough at times, especially when being an author is essentially a hobby and you still have a full-time job and family life to think of. But I’m getting better at both writing and editing, and all of the hard work so far puts me in a good position to release my new novel early in the new year, probably mid-February.

But writing and editing isn’t the only thing happening around here. I’ve commissioned a cover for The Well of Tears, and once again, Olivia at Oliviaprodesign has come up with a stunning cover. I’ve asked somebody who’s been very supportive of my work if they’d like to feature the cover reveal on their website, and I’m hoping that this will happen soon.

Finally, With the January blog tour for Monkey Arkwright on Rachel’s Random Resources getting ever closer, I’m hoping that it’s going to be a great start to the new year for Lorna and Monkey.

Events

Blog Tour – January 2020

MonkeyArkwright - RRR Blog Tour January 2020

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have spotted that this post is titled “Blog Tour”. However, I wanted to kick it off with a short note about progress on book #3, The Well of Tears. I completed the first draft of the manuscript last weekend, which meant that I rattled off the final 10 chapters of the trilogy – that’s 27,000 words – in a mere 19 days! I had planned this sequence of chapters well in advance, and although I changed a few things around near the end, the forward planning allowed me to pretty much write my heart out for nearly 3 weeks, which felt immensely satisfying. Now for 3 months of hard-core editing.

Anyway, onto news of the upcoming blog tour. Much like releasing a new book into the wild, I had a sense of trepidation when I asked Rachel, from Rachel’s Random Resources, to put together a tour for Monkey Arkwright, reasoning that the best marketing for a trilogy is to keep plugging the first part. I’d done a bit of research and read a lot of positive comments on Rachel’s blog tour services, so the trepidation was not so much about the person putting the tour together, but more the fact that there was a minimum number of participants required for the tour to go ahead. It might only be a virtual tour, but much like a band, you need a minimum number of venues – or in this case, host bloggers – to make the tour work. Rachel’s tours require a minimum of 5 bloggers, so once the tour page for Monkey Arkwright went live, I kept the page in my browser and hit refresh every day.

If I remember correctly, the first time I saw the page, it already featured the names of 7 blogs, which meant that I had at least qualified for the tour. This quickly grew to 11, and I can tell you there was a great buzz every 4 or 5 page refreshes when I saw that another blogger or two had joined the tour. I’m delighted to announce that just under a month after the call for bloggers was made, the tour is now full, with all 21 slots filled! You can see a list of the bloggers that will feature Monkey Arkwright, 12 of them providing reviews, the other 9 providing Monkey-related features, here.

The tour will run 10-16 January 2020, which will provide me with some much-needed coverage in the run-up to the release of The Well of Tears, which is pencilled in for February.

Many thanks to Rachel for setting this up, and thanks to all the bloggers who have agreed to take part.